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Take My Breath Away
Season: 2
Episode: 10
CTV Airdate: 11/24/02
The-N Airdate: 12/9/02

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Before Dr. Phil and his talk show became utterly ridiculous, he published a book in 1999 called “Life Strategies.”  One of his life laws is the idea that “There is no reality; only perception.”

We get a wonderful glimpse of this philosophy in Take My Breath Away.  When it comes to our lives we only experience our perception in every situation.  In this episode, Degrassi allows us to see just how different two people’s perspectives can be toward the same situation.

dg210-1MANNY PLOT REVIEW:  We first see Manny daydreaming about her and Craig being together, as if they’re destined to fall in love and live happily ever after.  Craig seems to like Manny as they cross paths in the hallways of Degrassi, but he hasn’t asked her out yet.  Manny is a girl who believes in fairytale love and believe it’s romantic for the guy to ask the girl out, but Emma tells her about how Spike was the one who asked Snake to marry her.  Taking Emma’s advice on how if she wants something she should go after it, Manny walks up to Craig and tells him she likes him.  Craig is left speechless; his lack of response makes Manny instantly regret telling him, and she walks away embarrassed..  Craig stops her and tells her that he likes her as well, and Manny asks him out on a date to the movies.

The next day, after their date, Degrassi jumps back and forth between Craig and Manny’s different perspectives on how the date went.  Manny is falling in love and believes Craig is “the one.”  On the date they showed up to the movies, but there also happened to be a carnival in the area.  Manny swooned over how caring she thought Craig was, buying her cotton candy and winning her a stuffed horse.  Craig on the other hand was left feeling confused by their date; he saw Manny’s child-like behavior at the carnival as kind of immature, and also felt like she talked too much.

At school Craig tries to talk to Manny, but her gushing about their date and talking as if they’re a couple leaves Craig afraid to tell Manny his true feelings.  It’s funny how easy it is for one to only see what they want to see, as Manny doesn’t notice the discomfort plastered all over Craig’s face, yet Emma does.  Emma tries to warn Manny that Craig might not be into her, but Ms. Santos doesn’t want to hear any of it, citing that Craig is just “moody” and needs cheering up.

Manny tries to cheer Craig up by decorating his locker, but he doesn’t like it.  He finally tells Manny that he doesn’t like her, and she’s left heartbroken.

dg210-2Craig’s position on Manny is interesting because of how layered it is, showing us a dynamic change in how Craig sees Manny throughout the episode.  Before the date he seems open to dating her despite the show constantly providing reminders that Manny is a year younger than him (a gap that in reality isn’t AS huge as the show makes it seem).  “Isn’t she a bit young for you?” Joey asks, and Craig responds, “It’s just eleven months.”  However, after the date, Craig admits that he’s troubled by the fact Manny is “a bit young,” admitting the reason he wasn’t into the date is because Manny reminded him of his five-year-old sister Angela.  Throughout Take My Breath Away the parallels between Manny and Angela are there, ironically tied together by the fact that actresses Cassie Steele and Alex Steele are sisters in real life.

Manny naturally looks younger than other girls her age, but Craig is, for at least a bit, blown away at how mature she looks when he arrives for the date and sees her dressed up.  However, Manny’s behavior at the carnival is exactly how Craig would expect Angela to behave.  The biggest parallel is Manny’s excitement over Craig winning the stuffed horse, and telling him about her Fluffy Fluff collection; earlier in the day Craig witnessed Angela showing childish enthusiasm by waving her stuffed toy cow in his face.

Degrassi drops several hints at Ashley and Craig possibly being an item in the future.  Right before Manny asks Craig out, we see him look at Ashley in a way he never once looks at Manny in Take My Breath Away.  Even on their date when he stared into Manny’s eyes and said he noticed how beautiful she was, Craig’s eyes didn’t light up the way they did when he saw Ashley.  Craig was going out on his first date, and Joey automatically assumed that it was with Ashley.  At the end of the episode, Ashley walks up during Craig and Manny’s final conversation attempting to ask Craig to sign her petition against genetically-modified foods.  As Craig and Ashley are engaged in conversation Manny can only stand there clueless about GM foods as she asks “Does that…make them good?”  Craig responds with a silent, yet stunned gaze, signifying a gap in Craig and Manny that’s too wide for Craig to overcome.  In that moment all Manny knows is that the reality she believed to be true, one where what she has with Craig is magical, is crushed by Craig’s reality…one where he realizes he has no romantic interest in Manny.

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dg210-3ELLIE PLOT SUMMARY:  We all know the phrase about what happens when one assumes, you know, everyone ends up looking like an ass in the end.  Manny assumed that she and Craig were a modern-day fairytale because that’s what she wanted to believe, and she was ultimately blindsided by the truth that Craig was just not that into her.  However, it also works the other way with the assumption that things won’t go one’s way, causing them to miss out on a great opportunity while unaware of how close they really were to obtaining it.

Ellie has a crush on Marco.  She assumes that Marco won’t like her because Hazel also likes him, and unlike Ellie, Hazel is aggressive in pursuing him.  Ellie can only sigh as Hazel tries to put the moves on Marco by asking him to tutor her.

Because she’s too shy to tell him how she feels, Ellie sends Marco an anonymous “secret admirer” message.  However, Ellie’s plan backfires when Marco thinks Hazel might’ve sent the message.  Marco asks Ellie what it means and she tells him the person sent him the message because they like him, but are afraid of being rejected.  Ellie ends up sending Marco another secret admirer message asking him to meet in the zen garden.  Marco arrives and looks surprised to see Ellie there, telling her that he was supposed to meet up with Hazel.  He asks Ellie if she was the one sending him the messages, and she runs off embarrassed.  Later, Marco finds Ellie and tells her that he was looking for Hazel to tell her that she’s not his type.  He tells Ellie that he likes her, and asks her out on a date.

dg210-4Ellie’s scenario is as relatable as they come in the romantic world.  Her defeatist attitude brilliantly points a mirror at viewers, who at some point have had to combat their own negative self talk.  There wasn’t much in the way of hints for Ellie as to whether or not Marco liked her.  However, her immediate assumption was that he wasn’t interested in her, for no reason other than because Hazel went after him first, and surely she would win his heart before Ellie had a chance to.

It would’ve been nice to see some sort of “aha!” moment that led Ellie to finally coming clean to Marco.  Ellie was clearly shy and nervous given this was the first time she’d apparently ever liked a guy.  However, the story kind of jumps from her being timid and pessimistic to her boldly putting herself out there without a kickstarter, a moment where one is able to impulsively do something without over analyzing the situation (just as Manny did when she walked up to Craig and told him she liked him).

However, within the midst of Ellie’s grand move lies a girl who’s still so deathly afraid of rejection that she doesn’t let Marco explain why he was meeting Hazel in the first place before her fight-or-flight response kicks in.  As someone who was deathly shy in grade school, I understand that ultimately how one winds up going from paralyzing fear to “going for it” matters little.  The path is a blur because you’re hyper focused on the destination.  “Telling someone you like them is hard,” Ellie says, to which Marco responds with subtle glances that indicate he’s in the same situation and never had any interest in Hazel to begin with.  In a world where many people’s actions (or lack thereof) are motivated by fear of rejection far more than a desire for success, it’s nice that Degrassi highlights how we can be our own worst enemy, only assuming the worst instead of hoping for the best.

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Posted by Kary

2 Comments

  1. One of the things that I liked about Season 2 was that there were some insightful episodes like Take My Breath Away. Sure there were times when the writers slipped up (i.e. Spike’s wedding, Emma’s GM food protest, etc.), but at the end of the day, Degrassi still had the innocence and quality to back this season up. This is something that Degrassi lacks nowadays because the current season displays that the show is more concerned with being hip, trendy, and overly dramatic rather than actually writing thoughtful episodes. Forgive me for being outspoken but it just irks me that Degrassi has abandoned its’ educational roots.

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  2. Matthew – I have to agree with you. I think the show’s biggest problem now IS trying to be too trendy – because you’ll notice – there’s really no one truly like Ellie on the show anymore. Imogen kinda is – but she’s hardly there anymore. I really miss the show having diverse characters – not just race – but different kinds of people with different interests and viewpoints – rather than a bunch of kids all wearing trendy clothes and nothing that really makes them distinct. Degrassi used to be a very character driven show – and when it was, it really made the show the best – but it seems to have lost that. You can tell all the culturally relevent stories you want – but if the viewers don’t connect with or give a damn about the characters, like we all did in past seasons – then it’s not worth watching. Sure – some of those past characters were stereotypes at times – but they were interesting and the show worked to get us invested in them, but introducing them gradually, rather than just tossing them in the middle of things from their first episode and expecting us to like them or care about them.
    As I’ve said before – I think there’s something seriously wrong in the writers room at the show – and they really need to go back to basics – coming up with interesting characters, and then building the show and plots up around them, rather than the other way around. With strong characters – the plots will come naturally and feel a great deal more relevent than they do now.

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